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Police prepare for Christmas tree lighting, hours after bizarre incident on Capitol Square

RICHMOND, Va. – A Henrico County man was denied bond Wednesday morning, one day after Capitol Police says he drove a car into Capitol Square at a high rate of speed, ignored commands to stop and nearly struck an officer with his vehicle.

This bizarre incident happened outside the Virginia State Capitol Tuesday afternoon, 24 hours before the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

“This would be a first,” said Capitol Police spokesman Joe Macenka. “I don’t recall anything at all in our archives remotely close to this.”

John F. Landers II, 29, has been charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, driving while under the influence of drugs, driving on a revoked license, possession of drug paraphernalia and carrying an open container of alcohol.

“Landers, alone in a 2001 gray Honda Accord sedan, drove onto the grounds of Capitol Square at the main entrance at Ninth and Grace streets, where he drove past the manned Capitol Police guardhouse on North Drive and ignored an officer’s directions to stop,” said a Capitol Police spokesperson. “Landers proceeded eastbound on North Drive at a high rate of speed to the closed gate at the Executive Mansion, where another Capitol Police officer approached his vehicle on foot and attempted to get him to stop.”

Police said that officer had to jump onto the curb to avoid being hit by Landers as he headed back westbound on North Drive.

After stopping his vehicle on the South Portico, police say Landers jumped out and ran down the hill toward the south end of Capitol Square and across Bank Street. Capitol Police took him into custody on the sidewalk near the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals building.

Multiple witnesses tell Jake Burns that the male suspect did not have on a shirt or shoes on when he was taken into police custody.

John F. Landers II

No injuries were reported in the incident. Police say a K-9 unit checked Landers’ vehicle but found no evidence of explosives.

Macenka commended the response of the Capitol Police officers after resolving the situation in approximately two minutes.

“Literally the first time he showed up on the property was 2:53 p.m. and our security stamps show he was in custody it’s 2:55 p.m.,” said Macenka.

With that said, he says Capitol Police will review everything that happened and see what they can do to improve their response.

“We always increase security. We have a special operations plan for the tree lighting ceremony which is a very popular event for the public and for the state employees here on capital square,” said Macenka.

Hundreds of people are expected to come out to the capital tree lighting ceremony.

The annual Christmas tree lighting will take place Wednesday at 5 p.m. Governor Ralph Northam and the First Lady will at the ceremony to kick off the holidays.

Landers next court appearance is scheduled for December 18.